The Bible Study Handbook by Lindsay Olesberg: Chapters 8, 9, and 10

“Curiosity killed the cat . . .”BS Handbook

Today we continue our walkthrough of Lindsay Olesberg’s fantastically practical book, “The Bible Study Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to an Essential Practice.”

We’ve worked through her foundations and now we are taking a look at the building blocks.

Today we will look at three: Attentiveness, Curiosity, and Understanding


The building block of attentiveness pulls us away from using the Bible to bolster what we already think and sends us into keen observation about what the text actually says.

It is a discipline to do it well.

Many of us read the Bible on autopilot, just reading through without taking the time to see what is there. Part of the reason I started this blog was to help myself and you readers not read the Bible this way.

If you are wanting to know how to be attentive, here are three things you can look for in any text of the Bible:

  1. Context: Narrative, Cultural, Historical
  2. Content: The facts that make up the story (Who, what, when, where, etc)
  3. Connections: Laws of composition such as repetition, compare/contrast, cause & effect

Spend just a little time looking for these and you might be amazed at what you find. Trust me. I do this for a living.


“At it’s root, curiosity is an emotion.”

We must always approach the Bible in a spirit of curiosity. This makes us teachable and willing to learn from the text.

Reality check: Curious people live better lives. Everything in life is better when you have a posture of curiosity. Jesus affirmed people when they were curious about him. Think about the disciples asking him what the parables meant or Zaccheus climbing the tree to see who Jesus was.

When you read the Bible, if you have any intellectual integrity, you will have questions. Ask them. And then be willing to learn what the answers might be.

Here are some ways to ask better questions:

  • Be specific: “What’s up with this?” is not as good of a question as, “Why are these details included in the story?”
  • Ask about connections: “Why does Jesus announce the Kingdom of God?” is not as good of a question as, “What is the connection between the arrival of the Kingdom of God and ‘repent and believe in the good news?'”
  • Ask questions that force you to keep looking at the text. 

And finally, she gives four types of questions. I know, lots of lists and bullet points. It’s ok. This is good stuff.

  1. Questions that help us SEE the text and envision the scene
  2. Questions that RELATE the text to our lives
  3. Questions that help us UNDERSTAND the tension points of the text
  4. Questions that help us UNDERSTAND the text as a whole


I’m on a roll. Here is the seven-fold path to understanding a Biblical text:

  1. Identify the units of thought: Ignore the paragraphs your Bible gives you and make new ones based on where changes in the text happen.
  2. Define the genre: Poetry? Narrative? Personal Letter? History?
  3. Define words and concepts: Use a lexicon if necessary, but the immediate context of a word or phrase has more weight than what a dictionary says.
  4. Look up OT references and determine how the author is using them: Or if you are reading the OT, is the author referencing a previous event?
  5. Envision the drama: There is no contradiction between rigorous thinking and vibrant experience
  6. Answer the remaining questions: use whatever clues you can find in the text to answer them. Don’t refer to sermons or books.
  7. Identify the core message: What is the main point?

Your Bible study skills probably just went through the roof! Boom!

“. . . but satisfaction brought it back!”


1 Samuel 7: Three Quick Sermon Ideas

patrickhenrypulpit1Hey, Pastors!

Listen, I know y’all are busy. I honestly don’t know how you find time to come up with and prep sermons each week. You do a lot of work and I bet you might feel just a little under-appreciated.

Well, fear not! I thought I would dedicate today’s post to you and help you out a bit.

How would you like three quick sermon ideas?

How would you like them to all come from the same chapter in 1 Samuel?

That’s what I thought!

Sermon #1: Return to the LORD

“Then Samuel said to all the house of Israel, ‘If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Astartes from among you.”

How many of us say we are returning to God and then don’t really change anything?

It’s time to get serious and put away those things that you put above God! Come on, people, what are you holding on to? What are your “foreign gods.” It’s ok. We all have them. Just come up after the service and lay them here at the altar.

We’ll have a smashing party later.

Sermon #2: Prayer is our Strategy

“And when the people of Israel heard of it they were afraid of the Philistines. The people of Israel said to Samuel, ‘Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, and pray that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines.’”

Where do you put your trust?

In planning? In making sure all your bases are covered?

We might think Israel was foolish for letting their guard down to worship while the vile Philistines were waiting for just the right moment to attack.

But they trusted in something more than military strength.

They trusted the LORD. And they prayed.


Sermon #3: It’s worked so far!

“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Jeshanah,and named it Ebenezer; for he said, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’”

It is easy to forget what God has done in our lives. Am I right or am I right?

Let’s adopt a posture when faced with trials. Let’s just say to each other, “Well, God has helped us so far. Maybe he will again!”

Where in your life do you need to trust that God will help you?

We have stones to give out to everyone to help them remember that God has helped us so far. Take one and keep it in your pocket. Save it for a day when the Philistines attack you.


You’re welcome, Pastors. Keep doin’ whatcha do.

1 Samuel 6: Return of the Lost Ark

Wouldn’t you love to see John Williams compose the soundtrack to this chapter?

The Philistines have had a rough go the last few months.

Sure, they won a great and decisive victory over Israel. Sure, they captured the most important object in Israelite culture. But that doesn’t mean life has been rainbows and lollipops.

Tumors and terror have plagued their cities. Their god, Dagon’s capa was detated. Some victory celebration, right?

I know the Philistines are villains (or Vill-istines) in this story, but I gotta hand it to them, they know when they are beat. They know they have to get rid of the ark of God before something worse happens. They’ve heard what God did to Egypt and they do not want to go the way of Pharaoh.

What do they do? They repent.

They send the ark back with a guilt offering to the LORD. They know they were wrong. They admit it and make amends.

Israel’s Response

One day, in the border town of Beth-Shemesh, the people were out collecting the wheat harvest. They looked up and saw the ark come over the ridge pulled in a cart by a couple of cows.

They joyously ran out to meet it. The Levites took it down and made sure it was cared for. The people sacrificed the cows on a large stone.

It was a happy day.

Both Israel and Philistia responded to God appropriately.

But then (and this is where it will get weird if you are reading from a different version of the Bible) this guy, Jeconiah and his family decided to be crabby pooh-heads about the whole thing. They didn’t celebrate the return of the ark.

So God killed seventy of them.

That sucks. And just so you know I’m not being flippant about it, that is a disturbing passage.

Party or DIE!

What’s It Say in Your Bible?

I am studying from the NRSV. Here is what 1 Samuel 6:19 says:

“The descendants of Jeconiah did not rejoice with the people of Beth-Shemesh when they greeted the ark of the LORD; and he killed seventy men of them.”

But here is what it says in my NIV:

“But God struck down some of the men of Beth-Shemesh, putting seventy* of them to death because they had looked into the ark of the LORD.”

There is no note in my Bible about a discrepancy in translations or manuscripts. So I am very confused. Which is it? Does anyone have any answers for that?

I’m looking at you, David Lamb.

Well, either way, those men who looked into the ark or chose not to party didn’t respond as well as the Philistines. And when that happens, you know you have a problem.

What does your translation say? What do you make of God killing those men?

The Bible Study Handbook by Lindsay Olesberg: Chapters 6 and 7

BS Handbook

As we work our way through “The Bible Study Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to an Essential Practice” by Lindsay Olesberg,we move now from the foundations (which you can read here and here) to the “Building Blocks.”

The foundations were her core convictions. The building blocks are the tools that help us study Scripture more effectively.

We will look at two building blocks this week: Honoring the author, and respecting  the story.

Chapter 6: Honor The Author

“The Bible is more like an encyclopedia than an epic novel.”

66 books. Many different authors. Over a thousand years in the making. This is not your everyday book.

God was trying to communicate incredibly important information to his people. And to do so, he used human authors. But these authors were not stenographers; they wrote using the style, language, idioms, rhetorical devices, and reference points of their cultures.

“They did not set out to write ‘timeless truth.’ They wrote for real communities, with real problems and challenges.

If we are going to be good students of the Bible, we need to do our best to understand and honor the authors of the texts. Why did they write? What was going on in that time? What were the needs of the community? What was happening in their world?

This will free us from reading our own issues and concerns into the text (though the text may end up speaking to our concerns) and makes the Bible, not us, the focal point.

Here are two questions Lindsay implores us to ask: What was the author trying to communicate? And How would this sound to the original readers?

Chapter 7: Respect for the Story

Have you ever been to a movie based on a beloved book only to leave disappointed because so much was changed? Did the movie makers even read the book?!

That is how God feels when you take things out of context.

Ok, I don’t know about that. But it is how I feel. And Lindsay.

“Faithful Biblical interpretation requires that we take the fullness of the Biblical narrative seriously, rather than edit it and simplify it to fit our agendas.”

That narrative has 5 parts:

  1. Creation and Fall
  2. Israel
  3. Jesus
  4. Church (the part currently taking place)
  5. Redemption

We have to learn these parts (or acts) and learn where different parts of the Bible fit into each one. Some books may have more than one! Yikes!

Lindsay then begins what might be the most helpful thing about the book. She walks you through a Bible Study where she looks for the things that she is teaching about. Using the story of Zaccheus from Luke, she shows you how to locate where it fits in the immediate context, where it fits in Luke, and where Luke fits in the Bible.

Super helpful.

How has honoring the author and respecting the story helped you as you study the Bible?

1 Samuel 5: Dagon vs. YHWH

Llllllllllllllllet’s Get Ready To RRRRRRRummmmmmbllllllllllllleeeeeeeeeeee!Marvel-Invite-fakeinfo

Tonight’s Fight: Dagon of the Philistines will be squaring off against YHWH of Israel.

Significance: This is the first time these two have personally matched up. Their people have skirmished from time to time, but this one is a Diety vs. Diety face-off. Should be a great match.

Key Factors: Dagon not only has the home-court advantage in Ashdod, but YHWH has been taken there from Shiloh against his wishes.

Also, the Philistines just won a major battle against Israel. The momentum is entirely on their side.

Round 1

Results: Surprisingly, no one stuck around to watch the fight after dark. It is unclear how long it lasted but by morning, Dagon was pinned and lying face down before YHWH. Shocking!

Round 2

Results: The Philistines we expecting Dagon to rally back in round two. Perhaps he just got a little over confident in the first round. They came back in the morning and discovered that round two had gone far worse than they could have imagined.

Dagon was “face down” before YHWH but this time his head and hands were cut off.

That’s the match, folks. Nothing more to see here.

The Hand of God

Is there a connection between the severing of Dagon’s hands and the repeated references to “the hand of the LORD?”

Uh, yes.

God was “kidnapped” by the Philistines. His people lost a huge battle. Things are looking pretty bad. So what happens?

God trounces the Philistines on their home turf, in their temple, in their cities, without any help from his people. He can do it all by himself.

The LORD’s hand was heavy and three great cities broke out in panic and tumors.

God is more powerful than the Philistines’ God. He is not limited by the might of his people or his geography.

This is a powerful reminder given that in a few chapters, Israel will cry out for a king when they don’t need one! God can handle it himself!

When was a time you were surprised at the way God worked all by himself?

The Bible Study Handbook by Lindsay Olesberg: Chapters 4 and 5

What are the benefits of studying the Bible with people from other cultures? Lindsay Olesberg, author of “The Bible Study Handbook” has traveled the world studying and teaching with students, pastors, and leaders from vastly different contexts than our North American one. She seems to think there are plenty of benefits. We are working through … Continue reading

1 Samuel 4: Eli and Sons (Video Blog)

Back by popular demand! Another little diddy about Bible people. You’re losing to the Philistines They beat you once. They are winning this war And even though you brought the ark They beat you down just like they did before You shouldn’t need to ask me why Remember all the things that I have said … Continue reading

The Bible Study Handbook by Lindsay Olesberg: Chapters 1, 2 and 3

Each week I am devoting one post to working through “The Bible Study Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to an Essential Practice” by Lindsay Olesberg. Lindsay is the Scripture manager for the Urbana Student Missions conference and is a sought after Bible teacher the world over. She also is a friend and mentor of yours truly. … Continue reading

1 Samuel 2: Scoundrels at the Tent

Is it comforting or frustrating to know that for thousands of years, people have been dealing with corrupt religious leaders? (Usually) Men who take more than their share from the offerings of the faithful? Who prey on the women who graciously give their time and energy to serve? Who have no regard for the reasons … Continue reading